Monday, October 31, 2011

Asparagus Hollandaise Risotto

It's a secret obsession of any blogger to be the first one to try something out.  It's never as much fun writing creeds of cookery when you know that every one of New Zealand's food blogs have already done the same post as you.  With every second person who has elevated themselves from takeaway pizza and a Sunday roast now writing a food blog it can be hard to be original.

So it is that I proudly declare some originality.  I have not been able to find the following words in this order on google.  Asparagus, Hollandaise, Risotto.

 Maybe there's a reason for that.  Maybe others have thought this one through, then produced curdled sickly results which could never be mentioned again.  Maybe others have thought there is no reason to tarnish a perfectly simple dish with one extra added flavor. Maybe others are considering their waists and refuse to indulge their midweek risotto in a little bit of naughtiness.

And so it is that I am prepared to sacrifice my cooking dignity, my waistline, and my tastebuds to this experiment.  In truth I only have the last of that trio in tact so there's not much to lose.

The inspiration came from the new season Asparagus which most foodies are very partial too.  The kind of delight that vegetable purists would say to leave alone.  Season it and then grace it with a bit of butter.  That's it.  I am very fond of 'naked' Asparagus, however it isn't that substantial is it?

I needed something to fill it out and my mind could not get away from Hollandaise sauce.  If you've never made your own Hollandaise you really must give it a go.  After a few attempts you'll have it down pat and it's one of those sauces that just can't be replicated by any of the bottled varieties.  Silky and buttery with just a little hint of tang a good Hollandaise will envelop and ooze over whatever it adorns.

The most alarming aspect of attempting this yourself will be that you will now know the contents of that delicious sauce you've been having over your eggs every time you head to the local cafe.  It's hard to feel guilt free when the evidence is right in front of you.

It has a reputation of being temperamental.  Seizing or curdling without warning.  And that's where the practice comes in.  Take things slow and you'll soon get the feel for it.  The trick is to ensure that the clarified butter is whisked in bit by bit, waiting for the last lot to emulsify, before adding any more.

As an experienced sauce man I can knock out a Hollandaise in around 15 minutes but you should give yourself twice that if you're new to the technique.

Now this recipe comes in two parts.  The sauce, and the Risotto.  Each has it's uses on it's own.  You can prepare the Hollandaise first and put to one side while you then get stuck into the Risotto.

Asparagus, Hollandaise Risotto

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Hollandaise Sauce

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp water
4 lightly crushed whole peppercorns
2 egg yolks
120g unsalted butter, clarified.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice.
pinch of cayenne pepper.

  1. To clarify the butter cut into small cubes and then put into a saucepan.  Heat gently until the milk solids (white, frothy bits) start to separate from the fat (clear yellow liquid).  Carefully pour the clear liquid into a pouring jug and put to one side. 
  2. In a small saucepan place the vinegar, water, and peppercorns and put on a low heat.  Bring to the boil, it will only take a minute.  Reduce the volume by half.
  3. Remove from the heat, strain the liquid into a heatproof glass bowl and then leave to cool.
  4. Add the egg yolks to the liquid and whisk together.
  5. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water where the base of the bowl is just above, but not touching, the water.  Whisk the mixture for 5-6 minutes until it thickens and s ribbon-like, creamy, and smooth in texture.
  6. Take the bowl off the heat and then place on a folded tea towel, which will prevent it moving.  You are going to need your hands for other things!  Slowly add the clarified butter pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream and whisking until the sauce is thick and glossy.  This is the part to take extra care with!  I would only add a Tbsp at a time to start so you can see the actual change that occurs as you mix in the butter.  Once you're confident you can start to add more at a time.
  7. Next is the seasoning.  Lemon juice, salt, a dash of cayenne pepper and some white pepper.  Taste and adjust, taste and adjust.  If you get it just right it should give you shivers down the spine!

The Risotto

600 ml Chicken/Vege Stock
1/4 cup wine
100g Aborio Rice
1/2 onion choped finely
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 bunch Asparagus
1/2 cup frozen peas

  1. Place the stock in a medium saucepan and put onto a medium heat.  You want the stock to be simmering, but not boiling for when you add it to the risotto.
  2. Melt the butter and the olive oil in a larger saucepan.  Add the onion and gently sweat for a few minutes on a medium heat.  Add the aborio rice and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.  You want to toast the rice in the oil.  It should start to go opaque.  Add the wine and let it cook off.
  3. Add the stock 1/3 cup at a time, stirring frequently until the stock has absorbed and then repeating that process until the rice is al dente  This should take about 20 minutes.  Remove the Risotto from the heat.
  4. Cut the woody ends off your Asparagus and peel off any woody nodules.  Place the Asparagus and the frozen peas into a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes until the Asparagus are tender but still have some bite.
  5. Drain then combine the vegetables with the Risotto.  Add half the Hollandaise to the Risotto and mix together.  Serve the Risotto and then finish by spooning over some more of the Hollandaise.
  6. The result is extraordinarily decadent.  So much so that in future I might limit myself to starter portions!  The above would make about 6 smaller portions which would go down a treat.  Just make sure you don't have anyone on a diet coming round!

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